Boys basketball makes its mark with 21 wins

Published 11:11 am Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

For the second time, Reynolds gut punched the Davie varsity boys basketball team right out of the gate.

For the second time, the last laugh came from Davie.

One month after the War Eagles overrode a 30-6 deficit and beat Reynolds 65-56, they overcame a 23-11 hole and closed the regular season with a 69-66 win over the Demons.

Last week saw the War Eagles crack the history books on two levels. At 21-3, they’re the sixth team in 68 years to reach 20-plus victories, joining clubs from 1969, 2000, 2011, 2012 and 2019. At 11-3, a four-win jump from the 7-7 mark in Josh Pittman’s first year at the helm, they became the seventh squad in 39 years to finish in the top two in the Central Piedmont Conference. The other years: 1988, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2018, 2019.

Davie 66, Glenn 53

The first matchup in Kernersville was an 81-51 Davie thrashing, but the meeting on Senior Night on Feb. 13 did not go according to plan in the first half.

The War Eagles could not buy a bucket and led just 23-20 at halftime. Jackson Powers had 10 points at the break on efficient 4-for-6 shooting, but the rest of the team was 5 of 23.

“We played good defense in the first half, the ball just wasn’t falling for us,” Pittman said. “We were pressing a little bit instead of being relaxed, but that comes with Senior Night. There is a lot of emotion, but we settled down and the ball started going in.”

When Davie held a 30-25 lead in the third quarter, it was 1 for 17 from 3-point range. It got better. After scoring 30 points in the first 20:38, the War Eagles put up 22 in less than six minutes.

The 22-8 run was ignited by a pass from Coleman Lawhon to Ethan Driver, who connected from 3 with 3:22 remaining in the third. Twenty seconds later, Adam Brown assisted a Powers 3. Brown threaded the needle with a pass inside to Driver, who scored. Brown drove the baseline – he loves driving the baseline – and converted over a defender. There was hot-potato ball movement – Bryson Mickey to Lawhon to Driver to Powers – that resulted in a Powers trey.

If that didn’t break Glenn’s back, Mickey’s little tear did. He hit two triples in a span of 73 seconds, then hit a layup after a Glenn turnover. With a 52-33 lead with 5:28 remaining, Davie had win No. 20 in its hip pocket.

“We’ve been struggling shooting here lately, and I think we lost our confidence a little bit,” Pittman said. “But in the second half, we started making the extra pass again and getting back to playing how we were playing at the beginning of the year. It opens up quick when you do that.”

Powers posted eye-popping numbers (21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals). He drained 8 of 11 field goals and all three free throws. Mickey had 10 points. Driver had eight points and four steals. Lawhon turned in five points, three assists and three steals. Davie also got points from Gavin Williams (5), Brown (4), Ethan Ratledge (3), Braddock Coleman (3), CJ Phelps (3), Landon Waller (2) and Isaac Swisher (2).

Seniors Lawhon, Phelps, Ratledge and Williams were honored before the game. Phelps, who plays sparingly but got the start on this emotional night, drew the loudest cheers.

Phelps played the first 1:29, then returned late in the fourth. He scored in the lane with 1:08 to go. He hit a free throw. He rejected a shot at :30. Every time he did something, the crowd erupted. The icing on the cake was Waller’s up-and-under, reverse layup at the buzzer.

“You’ve got to be appreciative and thankful for kids like that,” Pittman said of Phelps. “He’s a program kid. Everybody is excited for him because he has energy and works hard. He has a bright future because of that. If anybody deserves it, he does.”

The Bobcats finished last in the CPC. Ironically, their lone league win was 66-62 over first-place Mt. Tabor on Feb. 6.

Davie 69, Reynolds 66

In the regular-season finale in Winston-Salem on Feb. 16, the Demons made an aggressive statement while taking the 23-11 lead.

The War Eagles found traction in the second quarter and prevailed because Powers starred again, because Mickey was everywhere and because Elliott Erlandsson was a true game-changer off the bench.

“It was tough,” Pittman said. “I told them at the beginning of the game they’re going to make shots because they’re playing for something. They want to send their coach (Billy Martin, who is retiring after 19 years at Reynolds) on a high note, and he’s a great coach and a great guy. I told them we were going to have to weather the storm.”

Mickey opened the game by drilling a 3 from the parking lot. When Pittman was forced to turn to his bench, Erlandsson bounced up and came to the rescue, his putback stopping Davie’s 0-for-7 dry spell.

But a seven-point possession enabled the Demons to build the double-digit lead. Davie pulled within 34-30 at halftime thanks to Erlandsson, who scored eight points; Mickey and Powers, who banged two 3s each; and Brown, who dropped in five points.

In the second half, Davie ripped off a 21-7 run. Ratledge scored inside and Driver scored on a drive. Ratledge posted up and converted. Lawhon buried a 3. After Powers scored back-to-back buckets in the paint, Davie had 51-41 breathing room while proving the worth of Pittman’s play calling.

“Ratledge had a helluva third quarter,” Pittman said. “I always say: ‘If you play us man to man, the referees clean the game up and I get to call plays and control the offense, I’m going to pick you apart.’ If they don’t let you play aggressive, hold and foul and we get to run plays, I’m going to pick you apart. We’ve got too many plays. I’m proud of them.”

Reynolds refused to fold and the teams slugged it out in a fight to the finish. After they missed 10 of 11 shots, the Demons put together a 19-10 run to close the gap to 61-60.

But Davie got hot again at the right time. Driver took a feed from Mickey and scored inside for a 63-60 lead with 1:10 left. Driver converted both foul shots to make it 66-63 at :41. When Lawhon, who seemingly has eyes in the back of his head, fired a 40-foot pass to Driver that resulted in an uncontested layup, it was 68-63 at :24.

That felt like the dagger, but Reynolds sank a 3 from another area code to make it 68-66 at :14. Erlandsson came through at the end, snatching an offensive rebound and hitting a free throw at :09 to push the lead to 69-66. Reynolds missed a 3 at the buzzer and Davie climbed three wins from tying the program record (24).

“We battled adversity in a hostile environment against a team that was playing for something that’s bigger than basketball, and we pulled it out,” Pittman said.

Powers (14 points, 13 rebounds) recorded his ninth double-double. Erlandsson, who has taken some lumps and saw his scoring average dip to 3.4, was further proof that Davie’s bench can swing a game on any given day. He finished with 13 points and nine rebounds while going 2 of 3 from the field and 9 of 14 from the line. Mickey hurt the pesky Demons with 11 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals.

“Jackson had another huge double-double,” Pittman said. “Elliott was solid. He played strong. He picked up where Ethan (Ratledge) left off. It’s hard to find the right rotation, but once you find six or seven that are working, you’ve just got to go with it.”

Notes: Lawhon had nine points and two assists. Driver had nine points, Ratledge eight and Brown five. … Reynolds’ four-game losing streak dropped it to 10-14. … Pittman cited Landon King’s second-half defense. “I think Landon is built for those type of games,” he said. “He was locked in on his assignment.” … Tabor dispatched West Forsyth 85-73 to secure first. The CPC standings: Tabor 12-2, Davie 11-3, West 10-4, East Forsyth 9-5, Reagan 6-8, Parkland 4-10, Reynolds 3-11, Glenn 1-13. … Davie’s strength continues to be its balance rather than individual brilliance. Powers is averaging 13.7 points, Mickey 13, Ratledge 9.2 and Lawhon 9. Driver (5.7) is averaging 10.8 in the last five games.